Review: Halo Wars


Developer: Ensemble Studios
Genre: Real Time Strategy
Platform(s): Xbox 360
Release Date: March 3, 2009
Compatability (Xbox 360): 1MB Mininum Space | HDTV 720p / 1080i / 1080p | System Link 2-6 | Online Multiplayer 2-6 | Co-Op 2
Rating: 7.0

Halo Wars is set 20 years before the Halo event and readers of the Halo novels like the Fall of Reach, Contact Harvest, etc will be pleased to know that it fits into the Halo universe. The story starts out with a narration from Captain Cutter, the captain of the spirit of fire (a UNSC ship). It then cuts to a battle presuming on harvest, which brings me to a point about the cutscenes in this game. The cutscenes are amazingly beautiful and look something straight out of a big movie blockbuster, from the dirt on the ground to the laser fire, these just look so realistic and makes you want more. The scripting for the cutscenes is pretty good and sometimes a little bit cheesy and unoriginal. The story begins with the spirit of fire and its crew sent to investigate what the covenant have been doing down on harvests surface. It is later found that they have excavated a forerunner facility, a map. The story continues at a good pace and comes to a conclusion which won’t cause any unrest.

The main plus is the controls which for a console RTS (Real Time Strategy) have to be easy and simple to use. Easy and simple is just what you get with Halo Wars. On the visual side of things the graphics are average for a modern game and good for an RTS. The settings are varied, ranging from the shiny blue of the covenant to the brown and yellows of the flood. As you see by the title, it’s a Halo game and it has the same fell and atmosphere of a Halo game. The skulls, co-op, difficulty settings, music and even some of the maps are some of the things you will see in Halo Wars that are similar to its FPS (First Person Shooter) brothers.

Controlling all of this is pretty simple.

On the other hand, there are some hiccups with the game, but not many. Number one is the stereotyping of the characters. You have Capt. Cutter as Capt. Jacob Keyes, Serina as Cortana, Anders as Dr Halsey and Forge as the Master Chief or Johnson. You can’t avoid them in games but this is a bit over the top. Another thing is that you can not play as the flood which many people were annoyed by, but to be honest, realistically how can you control zombies? Another thing is that when the characters speak they are usually loud and aggressive when they don’t need to be and this gets very aggravating. The AI is not very smart and it is a bit too easy even on the higher difficulties. In multiplayer there is something called the “Warthog Rush”. This consists of someone with a UNSC character and having lots of supply pads and reactors and churning out warthogs fully upgraded within a short amount of time. There is a new DLC to specifically stop this tactic.

In Halo Wars you have new vehicles like the vulture and old vehicles like the scorpion and warthog. Each unit has a special ability which can really help in battle (ex. the marine grenade). In skirmish or multiplayer you have enough buildings for a RTS, you have supply pads for supplies, barracks for infantry, specific buildings for vehicles that slots all nicely in a base. The only thing different is that you have reactors which allow you to build specific units and buildings. The mission objectives differ from saving civilians. These include securing a base and even destroying a scarab. In the campaign you do have Spartans and do get to command them but they are limited. If you do have difficulties you can always have a friend help with co-op where you share resources and it makes it easier to handle. To the skirmish you can have bots offline, or online with real players where you can play either in 1 vs 1 or 2 vs 2 or 3 vs 3. 3 vs 3 is probably the best just because of the scale and the need for teamwork and tactics.

For a RTS game, the visuals are very impressive.

The multiplayer is one of the finest things about Halo Wars and this can keep you playing for much longer then you would normally do. You have two modes, death-match and standard. Standard is the normal wipe everyone out on the other team kind of game. Death-match is where you are fully upgraded, 15,000 resources but you have 15 max population. You have 6 leaders to choose from 3 UNSC and 3 Covenant. Each of these come with unique units and abilities (ex. Capt. Cutter has his mac blast). The good aspect with multiplayer is that like many games these days you need teamwork together, you can’t just go on your own because you will just get destroyed. The interface and controls allow you to work together even if you or the other gamers don’t have mics.

Overall Halo Wars is a good game with some drawbacks but it will keep you busy with the story, collectibles, achievements and multiplayer. If you like the real time strategy genre and you are a fan of the Halo series, this is one you should get.

Reviewed by phillipsmy – September 24, 2009

Cutscenes and the textures of the game are impressive, even though sometimes there’s a bit of lag with lots of units.
Musical soundtrack and sound effects are simple but very effective.
Even though the controls are easy and effective, the missions are very straightforward, no matter what difficulty you choose.
Final Score



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